Tough Winter Ahead

Vala Hafstað

It appears that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to hurt the travel industry in Iceland, making this coming winter a tough one, Morgunblaðið reports.

Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, managing director of SAF, the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, states that most likely, foreign tourists in Iceland will be considerably fewer this year than forecasts had indicated.

Early in the summer, the analysis departments of Icelandic banks predicted that the number of foreign tourists visiting Iceland this year would range between 600 and 800 thousand. By the end of August, the Icelandic Tourist Board put those numbers at 890,000. According to Jóhannes, it has become clear that the total number of foreign tourists will be closer to 600,000.

Due to the uncertainty that accompanies the pandemic, it is difficult, he notes, to estimate the need for labor in the travel sector this winter.

“What we foresee is that certain groups [of tourists], who have been essential to us, will rarely visit this winter,” he states. Those include tourists from the UK, who have frequently visited in the fall and spring, and those from Asia, who have flocked here around Christmas and New Year. This, he notes, is due to restrictions and the state of the pandemic in their countries.

“Clearly, once those groups are so to say out of the picture, the US market stands out as the most important one,” he points out.

In August, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) put Iceland on its list of countries at the highest COVID-19 risk assessment level, advising people not to travel here. That decision, Jóhannes states, has had a noticeable impact on the Icelandic travel industry.

“It didn’t have a major effect on trips that had been booked prior to the decision being made, but it has had a noticeable effect on demand in the wake of the decision, especially now in September.”

“We anticipate the closure of a considerable number of businesses [in the travel industry] this winter, for example in the countryside,” he states. “Clearly, this will be a very tough winter.”


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